After getting sozzled on Scrumpies at the NHC shop, I met up with three salty, seafaring fellows (from the windy island of Stornaway) with Viking names – Jens Johansen, Eoghainn Lapsley and Felix Saunders, who, as bass, drums and guitar/vocs respectively, form the current line up and impressive sound of The Howling Lords, whiskey-sodden blues-rock with balls. Let’s go ahead and just coin it Viking-bluesrock right now, I’m a music journalist, it’s my job to make up stupid names for genres!
The Lords were on the Glasgow leg of their Scottish tour, and after a good few rounds of pints with rum chasers, I knew the boys could handle their drink well, so they qualified immediately for a Gonzo Div. interview. We talked over a few more rounds, and with an old black and white movie playing silently on the television behind us, while generic music pumped out the speakers. And this is how it went…
CTH – For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Howling Lords how would you describe yourself?
FELIX – Really fuzzy fucking blues
CTH – So what have youse’ been doing as a band past few months?
FELIX – We’re on tour across Scotland, and then we are doing songwriting and recording, some new stuff.
CTH – Straight after the tour?
FELIX – Yeah.
CTH – No break?
FELIX – Pretty much straight after.
CTH – Any particular reason, do you feel more inspired or motivated coming off the back of a tour?
FELIX – We’ve had a few songs that we’ve been sitting on for nearly a year, and we’re like going, ‘it’s time to get these fucking done’. We put a time limit on it and go ‘this is when it needs to be done’…
CTH – Are you anxious to get the new stuff out?
JENS – There’s a bit of momentum there as well, that the three of us are carrying together, learning everything properly, getting the tour done, so everything is fresh when we step in the studio…
CTH – Come off the back of the tour and keep surfing the crest of that high and beautiful wave into the studio
JENS – That’s it!
CTH – It’s cool for me to get to interview my first blues-rock band cos’ I love the blues, I grew up on them and my dad was a blues musician. Did you guys grow up on the blues at all, or is it coming from somewhere else?
FELIX – It’s a weird one cos’, erm, we all stay on the island [Stornaway] where there’s a lot of traditional country music infused into us, it’s a really subconscious influence. For me, all my mum’s records were all like Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, all these really blues-inspired bands. Then I got into lots of different types of music, I got into like pop-punk and stuff like that, and then I started getting into stuff like R.L Burnside and you could see where punk and blues merged and it just kind of went from there, and these guys followed along and went ‘yeah, we’re in’, I promised them free beer as well…
JENS – That was the clincher
CTH – The only thing a musician ever needs! My favourite all-time guitarist is a blues-wizard named Alvin Lee from Ten Years After, do you have any favourite blues guitarists?
FELIX – Stevie Ray Vaughan, which is typical, or Philip Sayce, cos’ that guy is like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan combined, both techniques! And Gary Clark Jr. as well, he is phenomenal, he’s really good, they’re right up there and they’re amazing cos’ you go ‘these guys are still fresh’ it’s not ‘oh these are the old guys’. And the guitarist from Larkin Poe as well, cos’ she’s fucking nuts!
JENS – Rebecca [Lovell], she’s really fucking good!
FELIX – Yeah, it’s insane, they do videos and she just puts me to shame and I’m going ‘right, that’s it, fuck it, I quit’.
JENS – I really like Johnny Winter, and I’m a big Gary Moore fan.
CTH – Two phenomenal musicians right there! Any fans of Bob Log the Third? [they all shake their heads], with such classic tracks as ‘I Want Your Shit On My Knee’ and ‘You’ve Got Your Boob in My Scotch’. You’ve got to check out Bob log III!
JENS – I think I’ll have to, with song names like that.
CTH – So youse’ live out on Stornaway, do youse’ tour often or is it a rare thing?
FELIX – We try and tour as often as we can but people won’t book us cos’ we’re from Stornaway…
CTH – Really? Why?
FELIX – Cos’ it’s like, ‘aw it’s gonna cost us this much to get them down’ so we’re just going ‘fine, fuck you, we’ll do it ourselves’ If they can’t reply or be decent then we’ll just be like ‘fuck off we can do this ourselves’.
CTH – Independent as fuck.
FELIX – Yeah, this is our third tour this year.
CTH – Cos’ you’re not in it for the money, you just wanna’ play your music, newsflash: there is no fucking money!
FELIX – Yeah, if we break even we’re like ‘yesssssss’
CTH – To quote local legend Mark McGhee ‘let’s not break balls let’s merely break even, then we’ll hit the afterparty steaming for a damn fine evening’. So, you were originally a duo but you’re branching out now?
FELIX – Yeah, we’ve played as a four piece too, that was cool.
CTH – Have youse’ been in other bands?
FELIX – We’ve been in loads of different bands locally and down in Glasgow and stuff. We had jammed before together but things kind of didn’t work, and then I took over songwriting and singing and things changed, we got other people involved doing other stuff. In Stornaway there is some amazing musicians, like scarily good. We got to work with a guy called Pete Fletcher for our first album and he was an amazing producer. What was always amazing though is you’d fuck it all up and he’d go ‘No that’s all right’ and you’d go ‘Are you sure!? I can do it a lot better’ and he’d go ‘No it’s fine’ and we’d be like ‘Okay, cool’.
CTH –Kinda’ like the opposite of the Joy Division producer, what was his name?
FELIX – Martin Hannet
CTH – That’s the one. Okay, a question for Felix. What kind of guitar do you use and why do you love it?
FELIX – I use a Gretch Electromatic, which is really good, but I’ve got two Fender Strats as well which I use. One I took a flamethrower to…
CTH – Rock and roll! Wait, you’ve got a flamethrower!?
FELIX – Yeah, an actual fucking flamethrower.
CTH – You own a flamethrower!?
FELIX – Well there’s one in the house yeah.
[The conversation tangents into the zombie apocalypse, alcohol, drugs, Stornaway being ‘one big pub’ and eventually revolves back round to guitars]
FELIX – The Fender I use is the 1995 Fender, and I got it after the first tour, and since then it’s been everything I use, they’re going ‘You’ve got another one you know’ and I’m like [Golem impersonation] ‘No, it’s mine, get off!’ But it’s a great guitar.
CTH – Very reliable
FELIX – Yeah, always, and if anybody else had it it’d be shit but it works perfectly for me and I just love it, I always feel like I play my best on it.
CTH – And it fucking looks good!
FELIX – Yeah, it does. That’s the main guitars I use… Other than my acoustic, which has been through hell and back! It recently got thrown down the stairs at my house and survived, it always survives.
CTH – Do you write your songs on that?
FELIX – Yeah, always, I’ve wrote a lot of songs on it, but sometimes all the riffs come in band practice and stuff…
CTH – What’s your songwriting process?
FELIX – When it comes to songwriting it goes; ‘I’ve got this idea’ and there’s no filter really they’ll go ‘Yeah that’s good’ or ‘That’s fucking shit, what the fuck is wrong with you!?’ I’m like going ‘Fucksake I spent like the past week…’ they’re going ‘I don’t care’ you’re going ‘Good… What a waste of a week, I’m gonna destroy it’
CTH – Hypothetically, if blues-rock never existed, what kind of genre of band would you be playing in? I’ll ask you individually…
JENS – Funk
FELIX – Maybe punk, that, or something a bit more technical like erm…
CTH – Metal? Jazz? Metal-jazz?
FELIX – Something kind of proggy, but not really proggy, more… It’s hard to explain…
CTH – So in a one-word-answer shall we say prog?
FELIX – Ish
CTH – Something progressive-ish
EOGHAINN – If blues didn’t exist, I love my jazz
CTH – Well that’s something different from each of you, nice and rounded, funk, prog, jazz, you should start a funk-prog-jazz band! Okay that’s seventeen minutes, so one last question, then we can get really drunk. You did one album, are you doing another one?
FELIX – We’re trying to work out what it is, whether it’s gonna be two EPs or an album…
CTH – But like you alluded to earlier you do have new stuff…
FELIX – Yeah we have new stuff, we’ve got a new EP as of May anyway, we’re a band that releases a lot of stuff cos’ we’ve got the time…
CTH – That’s good, so you’re prolific then…
I signed off thereabouts, there was a lot of tangents and drunken banter that was pretty funny but that I had to leave out for the sake of length. Listening back to the interview reminded me of what a good night I had drinking with the Lords of Stornaway. A great bunch of chaps, and we found a lot of common ground and mutual loves, not least drink. We went on to Box where we saw a house band whose name eludes me, but whose guitarist was fucking shit-hot! And after a few White Russians for a stirrup-cup, I departed the lads, who went on over the coming week to play 13th Note, and then Edinburgh Bannermans, before closing their tour with Tooth & Claw in Inverness.
The Howling Lords are the best blues-rock Scotland has to offer, be sure to check out their music on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/thehowlinglords/ On Twitter here: https://twitter.com/thehowlinglords
And I’ll seeya’ in the pit at their next gig!